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Cruelty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Many years ago, I wrote a lengthy post on social media with this title and if was in specific reference to pictures spreading on social media that were in fact lies – sort of.

The pictures WERE of cruelty. Dogs were seized, rehabbed and re-homed, and the people who “owned” the dogs were tried and convicted of animal cruelty under Canadian law. However, the pictures circulating were accusing someone new of performing the cruelty which was false.

The pictures had popped up (for this second time) on social media and I recognized them immediately. I knew they were from a previous seizure that had occurred about a year or so before and I knew that this NEW person was not related at all to that terrible situation. This new person was now being slandered, verbally attacked and threatened in social media and even had a drive by shooting! So what the heck was going on here?

The “newly accused” actually had animals stolen from her from an Animal Control officer. Yes, you read that correctly! Stolen from her by an Animal Control Officer!

In attempt to sway the public because this Animal Control Officer was now under investigation by the Police for theft, the Animal Control officer shared the pictures from a PREVIOUS animal seizure claiming she personally rescued these new animals from what she referred to as “a modern day Auschwitz”.

I said I recognized the photos, actually it was two out of about 20 that were shared that I recognized. They were horrendous cases of abuse and something I’ll never forget. When I saw those pictures in particular, plus read the Animal Control Officers story on social media, I became very doubtful of the accuracy of it and chose to not jump on the band wagon and actually go myself an view the situation. As a side note, the comparison by a “professional” of an animal cruelty case to Auschwitz not only offended me but made my blood boil and actually was what commanded my attention to the whole situation.

I headed out that day with a dear friend and investigated the situation. It was easy enough to find as their address in the country was listed publicly on Facebook. It was an elderly woman living on a farm with I think four or five dogs, multiple horses, some pigs and even a llama. My friend and I looked around and where there was poopsy outside in the yard and in the barn, the place looked a little run down but all animals had shelter, bedding, ample food, water and were obviously cared for. The horses hooves were even trimmed nicely. I remember saying to my friend that for an elderly woman, she’s doing a remarkable job caring for all the animals as I had enough problems keeping care of four dogs!

So again, what the heck was going on here?

The elderly woman claimed that she had a horse go down in the early evening and she called the Animal Control Officer for help. The Animal Control Officer came out, euthanized the horse but also said she was coming back with a trailer. When The Animal Control Officer came back, she then started taking the animals she wanted. When the elderly woman objected, the Animal Control Officer said she’d be charged and prosecuted for Animal Abuse. The Animal Control Officer filled her trailer and told the woman she was coming back. That was when the elderly woman contacted family and the Police.

Over the course of the following year, that Animal Control officer was tried AND convicted of theft of property (animals are “property” in Canada). Sadly, her punishment was only approximately a $700 fine and loss of job. The “newly accused” never got her animals back as they disappeared.

As of recent, I’ve found myself digging through my archives in desperation of finding my original story but have had no success. So here I am, writing it again. Why?

Recently, my two canine series dog books have come under fire for containing dog pictures that contain “mutilated dogs” or “dogs clearly in need of medical attention and not receiving it”. The people making these comments therefore conclude that because the pictures are in my books, I must be in support of mutilating dogs or denying them medical treatment.

Let’s go back to the original statement as we’ve become to know it. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a statement that we’ve all likely heard and has a literally meaning that the perception of beauty is subjective. What one person finds beautiful, another may not.

So why have I altered this statement to reflect cruelty?

Oddly enough, I feel, it too has the same literal meaning. I believe cruelty is subjective (to a certain extent) and when viewing a picture, we will have an immediate emotional response. That response may be positive or negative but it will be our “judgment” on that split second in time when the picture was captured. Is our quick judgement accurate to the actual real life scenario?

One might be thinking “how on earth can you look at a picture and say it’s NOT cruel?!?” Let me explain.

I’m a dog lover. I’m 49 years old now and throughout my life, have had multiple dogs. I’ve had pure bred registered dogs, crosses, rescues and I’ve covered full lifespans of dogs from puppies at 8 weeks of age up to and including their passing as an elderly dog. I’ve also had many dogs go “through my hands” as a rescue intake and then to forever homes. Don’t ever say I don’t love canines – ALL canines. I will admit, I have preferences but I do love and appreciate all dogs and I think my history proves that hands down.

Social media is an amazing thing! But as I’ve come to see more and more, it can also be a dangerous thing. Pictures are posted in rapid time particularly when it comes to “dog people” as we ADORE our dogs and we EXPECT you will as well!

Like many proud dog owners, my cell phone has well over 1000 pictures on it. Let me break down those photos to you so as you might “get into my head”…

90% are dog photos with the remaining 10% being pictures of humans, fishing and scenery pictures. I will PROUDLY add that the 10% has increased dramatically as we’ve become proud grandparents so I now have an abundance of REALLY cute grand baby pictures (not so much of adults).

I can share with you right now at least 30 different pictures of our dogs in various forms of sleep! Sleeping on the couch, sleeping on the bed, sleeping upside down, sleeping with a toy, sleeping with blankets in various stages of cover… Or…

Are they pictures of dead dogs?

That’s a harsh statement but I think a valid one and one I use to make part of my point. When anyone shares a picture of a dog sleeping soundly with his ever so cute tongue hanging out, is he sleeping or is it a morbid picture of a dead dog? You only know because you know the person sharing the picture. You know the background or the full story. You BELIEVE what the caption tells you.

How do we determine by viewing a picture whether or not it’s “cruelty”?

On social media, there are some OBVIOUS pictures sometimes shared of cruelty. These may contain abused dogs in various stages of neglect and sometimes fresh wounds are visual. Typically, along with that the picture may come a caption that states the abuse. So we know – that picture is abuse if we BELIEVE the captions. Or is it? We’re assuming the attached written blurb is factual and an accurate depiction of the picture.

So what is your immediate “call” if you see a picture of a dog that is gaunt, ribs showing, hips showing, laying on the dead un kept grass with a collar that clearly shows it’s tied to something? If you don’t know the person and there is no caption to go with the picture – is that dog suffering from cruelty?

A few years back, that EXACT picture circulated on social media and many people grabbed their torches and ran to the aid of the dog who they felt CLEARLY was suffering! People replied to the post that Police needed to be called immediately, many literally threatened physical violence if they were given the address, many suggested immediate theft of the dog. This “situation” was actually located very close to me.

As it turns out, the dog was a senior enjoying her last days, laying in the front yard on a warm sunny, early spring day. The dog was well into her teens, and was under pain management due to cancer (hence why she had lost significant weight). The dog was tied to the front door because the people used to go out into the front yard with her on leash so she could watch the people go by and it wasn’t fenced.

After the post to social media, the people had to put a sign up explaining that they didn’t have much time left with her and to please stop harassing them as they were having a difficult time as it was… Sure enough, within a few days, the sign was taken down and the dog was gone but in her place, a cross. It’s obvious, these people did in fact love their dog.

Take a test! What’s your call?

What’s your call: Dog pictured wearing a collar on that has a little box positioned on the collar. Is this a high voltage shock collar or one that submits a beep to warn of the limits of the underground fencing system marking the end of the property? CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

What’s your call: A mangy little dog, matted fur, thin, toe nails long and seriously looking a mess? Well, that was our Taxi girl. At the time of her last vet visit, she was 17 years old, she was a rescue and HATED any form of grooming. The last few months of her life she had lost control of her bowels so defecated multiple times daily during sleep. She hated brushing so instead I opted to cut out poop that stuck to her fur. Her toe nails were over grown as she got very stressed out to them being trimmed. She was thin as cancer was present. Taking her into the vet on her last day was terribly upsetting for two reason. We were losing our little beloved, feisty Taxi girl. But the second reason was I felt ashamed of how she “looked”, she looked like she was neglected and truthfully, she even stank from urine. I’ll add that we changed her bedding daily and sometimes even multiple times a day. I can tell you, she was loved.

What’s your call: A picture (close up) of three puppies trying to chew their way out of a kennel? These puppies were being taken into the vet via a car ride. The kennel was in the vehicle. CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

What’s your call: A Doberman (our preferred breed of choice), Boxer, Schnauzer or other breed displayed with cropped ears or a docked tail? CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

This is a tough one, so bare with me. Cropping and Docking is legal in some countries and not legal in others. In Canada, it is legal in some Provinces but not in other Provinces.

When done legitimately, it is performed by veterinarians as a surgical procedure under anesthetic and TYPICALLY the reputable breeder will take their full litter of puppies into the vets to have the litter done all together. However, you can purchase an uncropped puppy and take it yourself to a vet. CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE? Well, I’ll let you decide but if Veterinarians are accepting money to do the procedure then we’re accusing Veterinarians as being cruel are we not? One could say, “yes but they’re starting to change their minds”. The fact remains, many have not.

We can say it’s an unnecessary surgical procedure for sure and I’ll even agree it’s primarily done for cosmetics but it IS performed by a vet. So doesn’t it become a choice? Some people may still say that you risk the life of the puppy by putting it under anesthetic unnecessarily. This is true but we do that all the time. We spay our females because we don’t want to deal with the “mess”. We neuter our males because many claim it “calms them down” even though scientific reports are now saying exactly the opposite.

We’ve taken it one step further! In Canada, we’ve got a “dog problem” where we have so many dogs in rescue that now, vets are performing “early” spays and neuters on puppies. This is spaying or neutering puppies as early as 8 weeks old. Many scientific reports state this is now proving to cause substantial health issues in our dogs and in particular, large breed dogs. These studies have claimed that early spay or neuter increases the risk of; Hypothyroidism, muscular and bone issues, some cancers and even death simply because of the adverse reaction to being placed under anesthetic. But we still do it for OUR convenience and prevention of pregnancy.

Due to the fact that it is illegal in some provinces, many ruthless and cruel backyard breeders are performing cropping themselves and literally butchering their puppies. These particular dogs can actually “SELL” better with a higher price tag because they’re becoming more “RARE” and hard to find. There is NO DOUBT in my mind there is cruelty there.

So let’s go back to the picture of a cropped Doberman. Let’s take ours for example as we currently have Liar and Gia who are cropped but we’ve also had Gunner and Blaze who were cropped… I have been told “shame on you! That’s illegal! How dare you!”

I wish to state, we (Tim and I) did not physically perform the cropping procedure. We live in Manitoba, Canada where few years ago they passed a bill making that procedure illegal. Liar is seven and actually came from a reputable breeder in the United States where it was then legal and still is.

Recently, I shared a picture of a puppy who had a horrendous hack job done on her ears and no doubt did not have a vet do it. The ears were completely healed and the puppy picture is a beautiful picture but you can tell she has virtually no ears. This is a rescue puppy. The people who have her now absolutely adore her but she was miss treated where she originated.

So let’s go back to my problem now…

I have a group in Facebook where people submit pictures of their beloved dogs for the chance that I may publish them in my books. These pictures are literally a quick snap shot of a moment in time that comes with no “back story”. Some pictures may be of elderly dogs, and some may be of puppies. I have two series, one for adults and one for children and now they’re both under scrutiny for me “supporting cruelty to animals”.

The people in my group ADORE their dogs and share pictures because their proud to have such a wonderful, beautiful dog! In fact, many of those dogs are treated better than a lot of children are. My books are sharing the love that we have for our canines and the love they offer us back. I share with you the compassion and appreciation of ALL dogs. So which pictures do I say “no” to because they “look” CRUEL?

What I do is this… I receive hundreds of pictures and I pick them apart trying to use pessimism, judgement, and quick emotion. I TRY to think how YOU will “see” the picture. And some I have turned away because I felt that they would incite a response that is non favorable.

But now I ask you. Where do I draw the line?

  • Dogs overweight? Overweight dogs can suffer chronic back issues. But it could be a thyroid issue…

  • Long toe nails? Not good for dogs as it has proven to cause a change in gait. So how long?

  • Old dogs with tumors? This is very common but do you want an old dog to undergo surgery to have a fatty tumor removed so it looks pretty?

  • Young dogs with tumors? If it’s fatty, there’s no reason to remove it unless it’s causing issues for the dogs.

  • Which breeds to I not allow in my books? We have a breed ban in Manitoba against Pitbulls but yet, Pitbulls exist and are much loved in other Provinces in Canada and other countries.

  • How about our Doberman Liar outside playing in the deep winter snow with no jacket? That could be considered abuse couldn’t it?

  • Conversely, what about an Alaskan Malamute on the beach in Hawaii where they never get snow? Cruelty?

  • What about a Pitbull who is covered in scars because they were used in a fight ring, but rescued, rehabbed and now living a fabulous life?

You tell me which proud dog person can’t have their precious dog in a book celebrating dogs...

I’m going to wrap this up as I have really rambled on. But I ask you to consider supporting me, supporting my love for dogs and supporting my endeavors with these books of spreading joy, humor, and even some canine information.

I ask that if you see a picture that you consider offensive because of an immediate emotional response, then also consider that you may not know the background story. If you’re reading a Little Paws book to your child and your child asks why that dog has a lump, maybe use it as a teaching moment and tell your child that dogs can get lumps and the vet obviously decided it was best to leave it alone. If you find cropped dogs offensive, you can also use that as a positive teaching moment.

Whatever you choose to do, please know that there is not an ounce of support for cruelty in my heart.

I love dogs and don’t discriminate.

Be safe and well!

Karen Grzenda, Author

Find all my books on Amazon in EBook or Paperback!

Heart Dog – Gunner’s Story (true life novel):

The Side Eye Series (adult series):

Little Paws (children’s series):

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Apr 23, 2021

I wondered this when I submitted the pic of Phoenix with the hose, it almost looks like I am doing it to her deliberately but IN FACT she jumps right in and loves it! Just remember there are people out there that go overboard, without knowing the whole story. You keep going, you are great! Lee Ann


Janice Chase
Janice Chase
Apr 23, 2021

Well said!!! Love your books as they bring smiles and happiness. I am honoured to have my girl (Widgeon) pictured in some of them!

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